Eight New Enthusiasms

It’s been nearly a year since I gathered together a bunch of things I can heartily recommend—not a bad exercise in general, and especially on the ever-negative Internet. I’ve tried not to include stuff I’ve already enthused about here and there (such as Court Street Grocers or Hemlock restaurant), and they’re not necessarily specific to this area.

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LI-LAC CHOCOLATE BARS
Li-Lac makes the best chocolate I have ever tasted, and for a long time, my favorite item was the dark chocolate nonpareils. While I still wouldn’t kick them out of bed, now I’m all about the pure chocolate, mainly in bars or pieces individually wrapped in foil. The Valentine’s Day hearts and Easter eggs are the perfect snack size, and after certain holidays, Li-Lac puts them on sale for 50 percent off. (The nearest shop is at Bleecker and Sullivan, conveniently close to Court Street Grocers, and I’ll see you there on April 2.)

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SINGLE-SHOT COFFEE DRINKS
You may not realize that the espresso drinks at your better cafés contain two shots, which can be exactly what you need. But I have found that, as good as it feels in the moment, too much caffeine makes me wake up at 3:30 a.m., regretting episodes from my misspent youth. So now when I need a little pick-me-up, I ask for a single-shot cappuccino or macchiato. I’ve only found one café around here that couldn’t do it. (Above: Nickel & Diner can do it.)

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CREST 3-D WHITE
Perhaps because of all that chocolate and coffee, my teeth have never been especially white, not even after having the dentist try whitening them. I had sort of given up on it when the hygienist at my dentist recommended Crest 3D White toothpaste. I ignored her, assuming Crest was paying her or something, but then she recommended it again on a subsequent visit. With nothing to lose, I bought some, and it has made a real difference. My husband, my periodontist, and a friend have all remarked on the improvement. (My periodontist insists I use an electric toothbrush, which could be helping.) One caveat: I use the Radiant Mint flavor, and it absolutely decimates the flavor of anything you eat or drink for the next several hours.

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YOGA
Whenever people who know me well learn that I’ve taken up yoga, they laugh: It’s not an obvious fit. But I knew—I could feel—that I needed it, physically. While swimming exercises the same muscles over and over, yoga finds new ways to make me sore every time. I do remain immune to the spiritual aspects—whenever I’m asked to set an intention, I think about sandwiches—but as Adam pointed out once: “You never come home unhappy from yoga.” (Swimming can leave me crabby, depending on the temperature of the water and the considerateness of the other swimmers.) I’m not going to tell where I practice, because I don’t want to spotlight any particular studio; find the one that works for you. P.S. I’ll spare you a photo of me attempting a pose.

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RANA RAVIOLI
We always have at least one package of Giovanni Rana ravioli in the freezer or fridge, for those nights when we can’t do much more than boil water, sauté an onion, and maybe chop some parsley. And they only take four minutes to cook! The 10-ounce packages, which serve two, cost $7.80 at Eataly—about the same price as Eataly’s housemade ravioli, but without all the cornmeal.

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BILL CHARLAP TRIO (AND A JAZZ SHORTCUT ON SPOTIFY)
I love music, and I used to obsess over keeping up with whatever was new and noteworthy. Then I got tired of trying to keep up, and I have come to be lukewarm about most contemporary music. And since Adam and I often have different taste in music anyway, we mostly listen to jazz now. When I first decided to do this post, I was only going to recommend the Bill Charlap Trio, live or on record, because they’re always excellent, interesting without being annoying. But then I discovered another way for me to find the kind of jazz I almost always like: Rudy Van Gelder was the recording engineer so many fantastic album in the 1960s, and if you search his name on Spotify—not as artist, but as part of the album name, you’ll find a trove of marvelous jazz, because the albums were reissued with “The Rudy Van Gelder Edition” as the subtitle. Try anything by Dexter Gordon, Hank Mobley, Cannonball Adderley, Bud Powell, Wayne Shorter, Sonny Rollins…. You’re far more likely to end up with something good than by playing a Pandora/Spotify/Apple Music station based on any of them, because the music tends to turn crappy very quickly.

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SAHADI’S
I don’t like going to Sahadi’s—it’s frustrating to have to travel to Brooklyn for good nuts—but I love shopping there. The store has been around forever, and it feels like it. More important, nearly everything I’ve bought (mainly nuts and dried fruit) has been superb. In exciting news, Sahadi’s is finally opening another location; less thrilling, it’s deeper in Brooklyn, in Industry City. (The main Sahadi’s is just a few blocks from Borough Hall, and a visit partners nicely with a stop at Bien Cuit and/or Blue Bottle.)

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EXPLORA
I have now taken four trips with Explora, and each one has been a total winner. Explora is best-known for its lodge inside Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia—that’s the view from the hotel pictured at top—and the property, excursions, and service are all excellent. I’m even more fond of the Explora lodge in the Atacama Desert, in the north of Chile; I first went 20 years ago, right when it opened, and then again last year with Adam. (The second photo above is of a walk through a salt canyon.) But the Explora-est experience I’ve been fortunate enough to have was what the company calls a travesia, a trip that starts in Salta, Argentina. Six travelers max stay a few nights at an Explora house in Cachi, Argentina—doing lots of hiking and maybe visiting a museum devoted to James Turrell, as we did—and then stay in relatively more rustic outposts as you head toward (and then over) the border with Chile, ending at the Atacama lodge. Adam and I were the only guests on our trip, so the hospitality was off the charts; our hosts/guides, Adriana and Esteban, became our friends. If you love hiking, but not camping, I can’t recommend Explora highly enough. (It also offers horseback riding and other activities.) And if you love the idea of hiking in places where there aren’t other hikers, or often even trails, consider the travesia we went on. It was magical. P.S. Explora also has lodges on Easter Island and near Machu Picchu.

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Previously (my enthusiasm may have waned since the initial publication):
••• Enthusiasms (May 2017): Baked’s pretzels, Fox Fodder Farm, Dandy Farmer, Catsmo smoked salmon, Filmstruck, gratuity-included restaurants, Rancho Gordo beans, Namibia.
••• Enthusiasms (November 2015): Silvercar, B&G hamburger dill chips, Raffetto Chut-Nut Colonial Chutney, Schoolhouse Electric’s free pencils, fake piercings, My Lunches With Orson.
••• Enthusiasms (March 2012): Sumo citrus, Mad for Martha’s chocolate cherry cookies at Café Clementine, Flowers by Yasmine, Grown & Sewn chinos, Kutsher’s homemade cel-ray soda, North End grill service; Greenwich Hotel’s coasters.
••• Enthusiasms (December 2011): Tiny’s home fries, eggplant croquettes at the Harrison, Tribeca Treats’s ice cream sandwiches, cabaret at Duane Park restaurant, Café Clementine cowboy cookies, Locanda Verde cookie plate, Saturdays menswear, Bazzini’s pistachios.
••• Enthusiasms (July 2011): Dolin vermouth, Americano aperitif, iced Americanos, Mehtaphor’s fries, Takahachi Bakery’s black sesame ice cream, birthday cake at the Harrison, Tamarind’s dal makhni, Milk Street Café people-watching.
••• Enthusiasms (April): La Colombe croissants, Bread Tribeca coat hooks, SP’s Nuts and Candy, the Kaffir Jimlet at Macao Trading Co., mini flip books, Grandaisy butternut squash pizza, Mr. Chow’s coasters, Capsouto Frères soufflé.

2 Comments

  1. We actually just got back from a week trip to Explora in Patagonia. It was phenomenal. I really rec the hotel and the trip. The hikes were marvelous and the views and hotel was spectacular. I myself have a lot of food restrictions and they catered to every single one of them. True luxury in the middle of Torres Del paine

  2. Erik

    Next time you are at Sahadi’s try Yemen Cafe across the street,
    specially if you like lamb. The soup that comes with the main courses is delicious.

    Maryna

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